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IFA reject proposals for All-Island Football League

The Irish Football Association has rebuffed proposals for an All-Island Football League.

Patrick Nelson, chief executive of the governing body for football in Northern Ireland, says it "will not sanction" any of its members to take part in the proposed unified Irish football league.

He criticised the plans laid out by Kerry businessman Kieran Lucid over "highly speculative" income figures and as posing a threat to European competition places and funding.

The ambitious proposals to create a 14-team top tier above two 10-team regionalised leagues, involving clubs from the FAI and IFA, had appeared to have gained momentum after initial meetings.

North Belfast club Crusaders, who have won three of the last five NIFL Premiership titles, praised it as a "fact-based ambitious proposal... to revive domestic Irish Football", with a "compelling" business case behind it.

Current champions Linfield said last week they had "a responsibility to consider the details of the proposal and to engage in further discussions over the coming months to establish whether there is a viable model".

However, the IFA has wasted little time in pouring cold water over the plan.

"The Irish Football Association has confirmed that it will not sanction any of its member clubs to take part in an all-island (All-Ireland) Football League as proposed by Irish businessman Kieran Lucid," said Nelson in a statement.

"Having listened to the proposals from Mr Lucid and his team, we believe the best interests of our member clubs and football in Northern Ireland are better served by remaining with the club-led model established in 2013 via the Northern Ireland Football League (NIFL).

"NIFL has gone from strength to strength since its inception in 2013 and continues to attract increased sponsorship and funding.

"The present distribution model, unanimously agreed by all clubs, ensures all 12 teams in the Danske Bank Premiership benefit from the prize fund.

"This has created a balanced league which has seen a substantial increase in attendances, awareness and television coverage. The potential income figures quoted in Mr Lucid’s proposals are highly speculative and lack specificity or guarantees.

"UEFA competition places, prize monies and youth solidarity funding are important to our clubs and we do not wish to put these in question.

"We greatly value our association and club links with the Football Association of Ireland and are happy to both take part in, and enhance, cross-border cup competitions at all levels.

"We already have the new Unite the Union Champions’ Cup, played for between the champions of the Irish League and League of Ireland, the Presidents’ Cup for Junior sides in both Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland and a proposed new intermediate level competition."